How to Talk to Your 9 Year Old About Getting Drunk

Illustration for article titled How to Talk to Your 9 Year Old About Getting Drunk

The American Academy of Pediatrics says you need to talk to your kids about drinking—before they’re a teenager. Before they’re a proper tween, really.


NBC News reports on the new guidelines:

“Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years. The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more,” Dr. Lorena Siqueira, a Miami pediatrician, and colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

“Therefore, it is very important to start talking to children about the dangers of drinking as early as 9 years of age,” concluded Siqueira and her colleagues. But what are you supposed to say to a nine-year-old about drinking? With the caveat that I know less than nothing about childrearing, here is a sample script:

Parent: Sit down. Sit down. Sit still. We need to talk.

Nine-year-old: [Refuses to put down Gameboy/iPhone/American Girl doll/whatever.]

Parent: Put that down.

Nine-year-old: [Very begrudgingly puts down Gameboy/iPhone/American Girl doll/whatever.]

Parent: We need to talk about drinking.

Nine-year-old: [Uncomfortable stare that would be an eyeroll if the kid were two years older.]


Parent: Alcohol is very bad for you.

Nine-year-old: You and Uncle Jerry drank an entire case of Miller Lite at the barbecue last week.


Parent: Uncle Jerry and I are adults. Alcohol is fine if you’re an adult. See, look right here—the journal Pediatrics says that, “Among youth who drink, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adult drinkers, rising from approximately 50 percent in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72 percent among those 18 to 20 years of age.”

Nine-year-old: ...

Parent: Look, here’s what happens when you get drunk. You spend the first two hours barfing up everything you’ve ever thought about eating, then you lay in bed for another four hours while the room spins and you think about every stupid thing you did last night, until you remember that Uncle Jerry drove the riding mower into the pond out back of the house. Then you barf again, then you have to go fish the riding mower out of the pond. It sucks. That’s drinking. Don’t do it.


Nine-year-old: Okay.

Parent: Okay.

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Story time:

When I was super young, I think in the higher single digits, my mom would give me a little glass of red wine for thanksgiving and christmas. She told me to drink it in tiny little sips while eating (“always eat before you have wine”), but not to be afraid of it. I remember her saying that there was nothing special about alcohol, only that some people abused it, and we had to be careful with it in order to enjoy it.

idk if that approach works for everyone, but it really took the mystery away from it as a kid. My mom wasn’t a big drinker anyway, but I definelty didn’t start really drinking until well into college. I knew we had alcoholism in the family but I credit my mom with introducing it to me in a positive, destigmatized way, and so in my case I never had that weird “forbidden” urge a lot of kids did that lead them to want to get shitfaced as a teen. Even to this day, I love my booze, but respect it. I think I have only been blackout/throwup drunk once, and I’m cool with not visiting that place regularly.

tl;dr: my mom gave me a little wine as a kid as a treat at holidays and I think I have a pretty healthy relationship with alcohol because of it.